A Tribute To Vincent Marotta Sr. & His Mr. Coffee Machine, Which Changed The Way The World Drank Its Favorite Beverage
In 2013, the National Coffee Association found that roughly 83 percent of American adults drink coffee. That means more than 200 million people likely felt a tinge of sadness today when they read the news that Vincent Marotta Sr., a co-creator of Mr. Coffee, has died at the age of 91. It may be a small appliance, but Mr. Coffee, the world's first electric drip machine, has made an immeasurable impact on the way Americans consume our coffee, which an overwhelming majority of Americans look forward to drinking every morning. Naturally, a tribute is in order for the man who made it easier for us to consume our lifeblood.
Marotta died on Saturday at his home in Pepper Pike, Ohio, near Cleveland. He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, Ann, his six children, and 11 grandchildren.
"I didn’t like the taste of coffee at home," Marotta told Forbes in 1979, "or even at other homes." For more than a century and a half, Americans were forced to drink coffee made by the slow and antiquated percolator, which often yielded burnt-tasting coffee. The other alternative was instant coffee, which a coffee purist like Marotta surely refused to even acknowledge. So, when Marotta's real estate business began to dry up in the late 1960s, he took the matter into his own hands and set out to revolutionize the way Americans make and drink coffee.
After teaming up with his real estate business partner, Samuel Glazer, and a couple of engineers, Edmund Abel and Erwin Schulze, Marotta developed a coffeemaker that would fix that burned flavor that had become the norm. Unlike the erratic percolator, Mr. Coffee brewed coffee at a steady 200 degrees Fahrenheit to yield smooth-tasting coffee.
Needless to say, the machine was a hit. In 1972, Marotta and his team marketed their Mr. Coffee machine to consumers for the first time, at a retail price of $39.99, which would be about $226 today, and it sold like hotcakes. In fact, the coffeemaker was so popular that Marotta was able to attract the attention of a very unlikely celebrity endorser — the non-coffee-drinking baseball legend Joe DiMaggio, whom Marotta personally recruited. With the help of DiMaggio's star power, Mr. Coffee was starting to become a must-have item for every home. By 1975, North American Systems, Mr. Coffee's parent company, had sold more than a million machines.
By 1979, when Marotta sat down with Forbes and talked up Mr. Coffee with the same enthusiasm as his very first sales pitch, his company was producing more than 40,000 machines per day, making $150 million annually, and dominating more than half the coffeemaker market in the U.S. And the country was the happier for it.
Nowadays, there are a plethora of ways to make it, flavor it, ice it, and consume it, and each and every one should be taken seriously. Because drinking coffee is so much more than just getting your caffeine fix, although it is an undeniably effective method of helping you wake up in the morning; it's an art form, a way of life, and, for some, a religion.
We're our most productive selves when drinking coffee, and it's there for us for so many of life's biggest milestones. Think of all the things that can happen over a cup of coffee: finishing your novel, making a new friend, having a life-changing epiphany, coming up with the idea for your next novel, rekindling an old friendship, falling in love. Not to sound like Dunkin' Donuts, but America runs on coffee.
So thank you, Mr. Marotta. By improving the art of coffee making, you've helped to improve an entire nation — and you've certainly made every home more aromatic.